Picture of Create a REALISTIC BURN using makeup
Although an extensive burn makeup can be achieved with prosthetics, there is a great deal which can be done with directly applied effects materials and colour, removing the need to sculpt and make moulds.

This is great if you are doing it for a one-off such as for a low budget movie, a makeup test, building a portfolio or simply to create effective makeups without using a lot of expensive kit. This tutorial covers a simple approach to creating a burn injury using silk, gelatine and colour.

As always, getting the right reference material will always be the most important first step to creating realism.  There are books on burn injuries and wound care, but try the internet for free images. Add words such as 'care of..', 'treatment of..' or 'types of..' before 'burn injury', and you will be more likely to get pictures and articles of the real thing rather than reams of makeup attempts on photo share sites such as flickr-although there are also good images of the real thing there too!

Incidentally, if you like this kind of thing why not check out the free mini ecourse on my site-sign up quick and easy at! 

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Step 1: A note about burns for makeup

Picture of A note about burns for makeup
From a makeup point of view, burns are a huge area as there are so many variables. Consider the extent of the burn as well as the type, whether clothing was involved, the age of the burn and whether healing has begun, or was complicated by infection.

If the burn is serious enough, might it have been treated surgically with skin grafts-and what would that look like? Also the burn may cause other complications such as shock and swelling, which in turn can affect circulation and offer further opportunity to enhance your makeup design.
There are many different kinds of burn. Exposure to heat is what most people think of but burns can result also from extreme cold, sunlight, chemicals, friction, radiation and scalds from hot liquids.

Here I have chosen to create a thermal burn on the side of the face. What often happens as the tissues of the body are subjected to extreme heat is that it contracts and distorts the undamaged skin around it. If you’ve ever seen a thin piece of meat in a hot pan, you’ll know what I mean. This is an interesting aspect from a makeup point of view, and one which we will use in the design.

Remember that heat rises, and fire loves to climb. Because of this, it is likely that the hair will have been affected along with the eyebrow, going up like a tinder box. I wanted to use this in the makeup, as the absence of hair on one side and the resulting asymmetry will enhance the effect.
valkgurl1 year ago
AS one WITH an actual gen-u-wine severed limb---lower leg---and a severed piece of a limb--partial foot--I say---ROCK ON!

If those sissies can't take it---they should stay home.

And you will find MOST amp's to have a somewhat ghoulish sense of humor about being a member of our small club. Actually---NOT such a a small club---something like one in NINE---gee does that stat sound familiar???---people in the USA has an amputation. Farm work; industrial accidents; sports; shark bites; health related forced amputations; hit by a bus---if we did not have a sense of humor about it we would probably spend our days crying our eyes out.

When mine happened my husband and kids wanted me to LIE DOWN in the hospital elevator doorway and they were gonna spread a bunch of blood around--HELP!!!! My wife caught her leg in the DOOR!!!!!

These injuries are not for sissies.
epešková1 year ago
that´ s amazing!!!! thanx for inspiration!
IsZeus1 year ago
Great job! Thanks for making this Instructable! I plan to incorporate this into my zombie costume. What was the cost for all of the supply's needed?
stuartbray (author)  IsZeus1 year ago
The cost of whatever latex you can get and acrylic paints. I buy latex in 5 litre containers, so that amount used is little.... but it depends on what existing materials you may already be able to lay your hands on.

This cost me maybe £2 of my existing materials.
is there a substitute for the gelatine because i dont like using anythingg that is made using any sort of animal body parts or fluids or whatever it is thats in gelatine:P
Look up agar-agar it should be available wherever plant eaters shop for groceries. It's derived from seaweed and used extensively in both cooking and biological lab work. VERY similar to animal based gelatins in texture and properties, but the taste is a little different...though easy to cover up if you're making a jello like substance for dessert.

Bryan "carnivore but I understand" Paschke
stuartbray (author)  wearetheprodigy3 years ago

You are quite right, gelatine is derived usually from pig proteins.

Yes, you could use SculptGel or Third Degree which are silicone pastes and behave in a very similar fashion to gelatine with the added benefit of being far more durable.

I have an instructable on that very material here:

okay thankyou:)
Bebblette1 year ago
Hi! This looks fantastic and will be using it on Saturday. Just curious.. what actually happens when you put the gelatin in your hair? I'm terrified that I'm going to rip out half of my hair in the process of removing it.
stuartbray (author)  Bebblette1 year ago
Warm water will melt gelatine, so hit the showers to clean out any that gets in hair.
Thanks for the tutorial. I cut some corners (didn't use the silk strips) and I used different materials, but I think it still looks good. For those who are curious, I used:
Mehron 3-D Gelatin Effects
Bottle of Blood
Trauma stack makeup
KY jelly
Foundation to make the gelatin look more like my own skin

I plan to use real charcoal instead of cream makeup for the smoky part when I go out for Halloween, this was just a test run.

Here's how mine came out.
BlueSuns4 years ago
Is it just regular gelatin, like Jello but without the flavoring? Or is it special gelatin that you have to get at a specialty store?
stuartbray (author)  BlueSuns4 years ago
Gelatine is graded by a 'bloom' rating. The higher the number, the more substantial the grade. The gelatine for fx work is 230-300 bloom, and is bought from FX suppliers.

Knox gelatine or similar is not really strong enough to do this kind of work. It melts very easily and would fall off and split easily if you used that kind of food gelatine.

You can buy premade blocks or mix it up yourself with glycerine, sorbitol and zinc oxide powder to raise the melting temperature. Melt it all in a microwave and mix it up, ensuring everything is well mixed and pour it into ice cube trays to cool. Then, you can pull chunks out and melt them as you need them.

Unless you are going to do this a lot, it may be cheaper to simply buy some premade blocks or something such as 'Gelefex' which is a precoloured gelatine makeup.

Here is some great information which goes into more depth:

K thank you!
I also forgot to ask, but does it dry and stick on its own or would i need to purchase spirit gum?
stuartbray (author)  BlueSuns4 years ago
Hi Kelsey

It will stick to skin and solidify while remaining flexible as it cools. It will inevitably lift and peel at the edges and areas of most movement eventually.

To maintain this, you can either use more gelatine or an adhesive such as Pros Aide. Spirit gum is not great, and tends to be less flexible than both the skin and gelatine.

Saline (sweat, tears and snot) will break down the gelatine, so prep the skin with astringent and clean off any makeup and natural skin oils prior to application to help the gelatine stick. 

You can also use an antiperspirant to help reduce sweat getting the the all depends on how long the makeup is going to be on, the environment you are in and how sweaty the person will get (are they jumping around outside in a Texan July, for example?). 

The context in which you are doing all this will naturally dictate how much time and cost you can justify for it.


cheese104 years ago
So I thought I'd post some pics of my first attempt at the burn makeup. I did it for my Halloween party this last weekend and everyone loved it. Thank you so much.
stuartbray (author)  cheese104 years ago
That looks awesome! Great job.
cheese104 years ago
This is great! Gonna use this technique for Halloween this year. To all those who think it's wrong to do this kind of makeup, um hello, it's Halloween or used for films, it's fake. If a burn victim didn't want to see it, I am sure they wouldn't go out and run the risk of seeing something like this on Halloween, if it's too painful for them. Halloween to me, is about taking something that normally is one way, and altering it just enough to make it scary, spooky, or gory. Why not? It's Halloween! I am a makeup artist, and seeing these things helps me learn new techniques that are cheap and easy, so I can use them in the films I work on, if needed. This is a job well done.
dfwmonkie4 years ago
nice !
ddpie5 years ago
 awesome work!
keesfik5 years ago
W O W, Fantastic. Its shows be right.

Ziet er erg eng/natuurlijk uit.
Heel goed gemaakt
 Why half of the comment in dutch? Is dat niet nutteloos? Only a fraction of the Instructabilians will be able to read it.

Dus, waarom een tweetalige comment? Tell me that.

AALISS5 years ago
You're very skilled at creating special effects like this and forfilm/theatre its great  But dont you think its a bit cruel to beusing this as a halloween costume? Severed limbs and zombies are onething but how do you think it'd feel for a burns victim to meet someonerunning around in gelatine and KY jelly mimicking the scars they havefor life just to freak people out on Halloween?
stuartbray (author)  AALISS5 years ago
True. In which case, don't do it.  Mind you, I have a friend who isan amputee who may not think much of severed limbs for fun.

It's mainly for people who want to do realistic makeup effects for lowbudget films/makeup tests etc.

But a valid point, duly noted.
I agree with Aaliss, I don't really like the idea of this sort of make up for Halloween, mostly because I burnt my face of a couple of years ago.

But I must say that you make helluva make up-artist. That 'burn' is really realistic. Good job on it
doso AALISS5 years ago
This seems to be more of a haunted house character idea rather than"oh hey let's go trick or treating, I'll be the burn victim you bethe cancer patient".
=SMART=5 years ago
That is seriously nasty !!
Fantastic work !!
 absolutely gruesome. Really great job
nneri125 years ago